Machine Production

Machine Production


a historical stage in the development of social production in which the instruments of labor are machines. Machine production represented the material basis for the development of capitalism. It supplanted small-scale, decentralized handicraft production based on manual operations. A break in social relations occurred on this basis, and capitalism replaced feudalism. Under capitalism large-scale machine production was first established, and on this basis the formation of the capitalist mode of production itself was completed.

The material and economic prerequisites for machine production were established by the manufactories. The division of labor in manufacture, involving the use of specialized instruments of labor and specialization of the workers themselves, opened the way for machines to replace manual implements of labor. Craft manufacture was transformed into the capitalist factory on the base of machine technology. Having arisen on the technical base of manufactures, the development of machine production to some degree brought about a revolution in this base itself, creating a technology appropriate to its own mode of production. “Modern industry,” K. Marx wrote, “had therefore itself to take in hand its characteristic instrument of production, the machine, and to construct machines by machines. It was not till it did this, that it built up for itself a fitting technical foundation, and stood on its own feet” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 396). Large-scale machine production took shape as a result of the industrial revolution, which began in England in the second half of the 18th century and then engulfed the other countries of Western Europe and also Russia and the United States.

Under large-scale machine production the cooperative element of the labor process becomes a necessity dictated by the nature of the means of labor itself. There is a deepening of the division of labor both within each individual enterprise and in society as a whole, and the concentration of means of production and work force increases enormously. Labor to manage and organize production becomes a technical necessity.

The development of machine production accelerated the disintegration and supplanting of precapitalist economic forms, promoted the expansion and establishment of the supremacy of capitalist production relations, and brought about qualitative changes in productive forces, essentially turning them into social productive forces. But by causing colossal growth in social production and raising labor productivity, capitalist production led to an exacerbation of the antagonistic contradictions characteristic of capitalism and particularly of the basic contradiction of capitalism: that between the social nature of production and the private capital form of appropriation. With the development of machine production the scale of capital accumulation increased and the size of the proletariat grew absolutely. At the same time the growth of the organic composition of capital caused a relative reduction in the demand for labor, an enlargement of the army of unemployed, a relative worsening of material condition, and poverty among the working masses.

The most recent stage in the historical development of capitalist machine production is related to the present scientific and technological revolution. The enormous capabilities offered by machine production in its present stage for raising labor productivity and increasing the material wealth of society are in irresolvable contradiction with capitalist production relations. This contradiction manifests itself in the unevenness of technical progress, the growth of militarization of the economy, chronic unemployment, and an inadequate supply of goods for fairly broad strata of the population.

Large-scale machine production, which was created and developed under capitalism and reached its highest level under conditions of state-monopoly capitalism, is the material prerequisite for socialism. Historically, socialism inherits large-scale machine production, destroying its capitalist form and liberating it from the contradictions and disproportions engendered by the private capital form of appropriation of the results of social labor.

After the proletariat has taken political power, socialist production relations are formed on the basis of large-scale machine production. In those countries where machine production is not the universal economic form, a material-technical base appropriate to socialism is created after the proletariat has taken power. In these countries industrialization is an essential condition for the successful construction of socialism.


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